Ok Grace Fellowship, we are just a little over a day away from the start of our 10 Christmas Eve services over the three campuses. I know myself and our staff are so excited to celebrate Christmas with thousands of you. We have been praying and are trusting God to move in an incredible way over this Christmas weekend. We want to make sure our services are the best experience possible for every person that steps onto a Grace Fellowship campus. We also want to maximize our impact over this weekend as well. With these thoughts in mind, here are few things to consider:
- Please RSVP – I know. You may be sick of hearing this if you are a Grace regular. But it is key. We are trying hard to prepare for every person who is a part of the Grace family and every guest that will come. There are some services at the Pickerington campus that are already at capacity. There is still room at the 1:00, 5:00 and particularly the 7:00 pm on the 24th. Please go to gracefellowship.cc/christmas to RSVP. If you are waiting on hearing back from a guest, just go ahead and RSVP for you or your family and then add your guests later.
- Be Generous – We are going to be taking an offering across the 10 services. Not a dime will go to Grace. We are putting a period on our Giving It Back initiative by giving away every dollar we receive at these services. You will not be giving TO a church. You will be giving THROUGH a church. So please be prepared to be generous and know your generosity will serve some people who really need the funds.
- Keep Inviting – You are probably over hearing this as well. But come on, life change might just be an invitation away. Take the risk. Ask again. Ask for the first time. Be gentle and kind in your ask, but ask. The stats say people will say yes more often than not for this time of the year.
- Extend Grace – There will be lots of people at many of the services. There will be many cars. There will be people who have never been at that campus. There will be some who did not want to come, but the family made them. Smile. Be patient. Greet warmly. Let people out of their parking spot. Realize they may not know that you always sit there. Remember the message of the gospel starts in the parking lot and is being preached in the lobby by the way people are valued.
- Give Up Your Seat – This will certainly not apply to everyone. If you end up at service, where it is so crowded we need to have people go to overflow, consider giving up your seat for a guest. If you are a Christian, who is by yourself or with your family, please consider, if the need arises, letting someone have the best church experience possible by giving up your seat.
- Pray – I believe God hears our prayers and is engaged in our world in real time. Ask God to be clearly glorified during these services. Ask God for your friends and family to say yes to coming to service. Ask God to move many from death to life. Ask God to speak to your heart. Ask that you understand even more of the grace of Christ. Be praying.
I look forward to seeing you over the next few days. Have a great time with your family and friends this holiday season. Merry Christmas!
I love when the potential and beauty of the church of Jesus is released. I just love it. Whenever I see the church at work through its people via the mobilization of local churches, I just smile. It is so cool. There are so many individuals and local churches that intentionally unleash generosity on people in need in incredibly creative ways.
The church I am part of works hard to do this. I was so proud of our people recently through an initiative called Shark Tank. The initiative, as you can guess, was patterned off of the popular show Shark Tank where entrepreneurs pursue the partnerships and dollars of wealthy investors (the sharks) to make their business/ invention/ product go forward. Our church asked our Grace Groups to come up with ideas that their group would execute if given $1000. Each group created its proposal and then submitted it to our staff. After going through all the applications/ ideas, 10 groups were chosen to receive $1000 each for a total of $10,000 It was so cool to see what these groups did. It is just awesome. This video highlights some of what the Shark Tank winners were able to accomplish.
Everyone was pumped this weekend for daylight savings time to end. This meant we would all receive that valued extra one hour of sleep we get each year at this time. As people commented and celebrated this reality, I had a not so pleasant dialogue going on in my own head. It went something like this. “Must be nice for you. I am not going to get that sleep. I have 2 year old twins and they don’t give a rip about what we do with our clocks. So you enjoy, but my wife and I will be not be getting any extra sleep.” I kept all this in my head, but I thought it each time I heard some one talk about it. And as I thought about it, I processed all the potential emotions that could come with the reality. I was annoyed, jealous, indifferent, disappointed, tired, etc.
But this is the deal. This is just a season. It is the season our family is in. That season will end and another season will begin. Seasons are real and we must acknowledge that. In fact someone I really respect said something to me about seasons I will never forget. He stressed the importance of identifying the season you are in and capitalizing on that season’s uniqueness. I think this is sound advice for all of us. Whether I am single or married, new in my career or retired, pregnant or raising children, on vacation or in a growth season on the job, or whatever… there is power to really embracing the season I am in and how I can leverage it.
Here are some things to consider regarding seasons:
- Identify the specific seasons you are in.
- What unique and exciting opportunities are present because of those seasons?
- What are some of the best lessons you can learn during your current seasons?
- What are you going to miss if you wish away this season of your life?
- Who could help you navigate the seasons you are in more effectively?
- What are the things this season demands of you that will only be temporary?
Marriage, dating, romance, sex: these are things that affect all of us in some capacity. Starting this weekend, Grace Fellowship is going to have a 4 week conversation about these topics and the various realities connected to them. Let me encourage you to make it a priority to be here for each weekend of the series. Bring your kids. Bring a friend. I am trusting you will be glad you did.
Some time ago my son was continuously telling me how he was crushing teams on FIFA 16 (this is an Xbox 1 video game). He would come up to me and tell me how he crushed this Premier League team or that MLS team or some national team. He would go on and on about the number of goals he scored against these teams, the moves he made and in general about his overall dominance.
I decided to check something about his game. What I discovered is that he had the game set on the lowest level for the play of each game. I do not remember the exact levels, but they are something like “Rookie” then “Experienced,” then “Professional” and ultimately “World Class.” Whatever the exact names are does not matter. He had it set on the easiest one. He did this so he can win. He felt good about his situation because he set up a weak enemy to battle against.
So what, right? He is 11 playing video games. But I think many of us do something like this in real life. We have an opinion or an idea or an argument for whatever. We convince ourselves we are right by setting up weak arguments or straw men in our heads for the opposing or opposite opinion. We put the opposition on rookie mode and then crush them. This may make us feel smart, but it is not honest and in the end it is silly. If an idea or opinion or position or argument is strong, we should not fear strong opponents or opposition. In fact the strength of the opponent should force us to see the strength of our point. When we argue in rookie level, we actually minimize our intelligence and the effectiveness we could have in making a case. Furthermore, we minimize how smart others are and the fact that they make have a good case or sound logic for their position. Let’s be careful not to call ourselves smart and correct and others dumb and wrong based on a scenario that positions us as a Harvard law grad and others as having the logic of preschooler. Because the truth is, neither of those is usually true. Be sober minded about your intelligence and the intelligence of others.
To be an obedient Christian is to be someone who wants others to become Christians. Not out of duty or have to or obligation or the importance of being right, but rather because you have tasted and seen the goodness of God and you want others to experience that same goodness. I think many Christians are for the idea of reaching others in principle. It is just the pesky reality that this means engaging and seeking out other real humans that becomes the challenge. We love people, but we don’t love loving them.
I had to the privilege to be in Athens, Greece recently. While my wife were in Athens we were able to visit some really powerful places. One of those places included a spot where the Apostle Paul visited and engaged lost people for Christ. As I walked this space, I was convicted and challenged to think about some important realities to pursuing others for Christ.
When you get hurt badly, it has a way of consuming your life. I am quite certain at this point people who are in my life are quite sick of my injury of recovering from a torn achilles tendon. But when it is personal to you, you feel every aspect of the pain and process. This is true beyond just physical pain. This is just as true when you are talking about emotional pain and loss. It is true about any kind of pain. The person going through it feels it all.
I have had something happen recently during the process of my physical pain. For five weeks plus, I was getting around on one of those sweet knee scooters. Then for about two weeks, I went to crutches and a boot before moving to just a boot. And now I have no boot as of about two weeks ago. Now when I walk in a room, people don’t see anything obvious. People begin to assume I am better. I have even had people say, “glad to see you are all better now.” And the truth is just because there is nothing visual to remind people of the trauma and because time keeps going by, people begin to think I am fine. Yet I can tell you that almost every step I take hurts. There is tightness and aching and time spent in physical therapy and time spent icing. There are moments of mental angst about the process itself, potentially re-injuring my foot, and what my life will look like in the future. And all this is over a dumb injury.
But here is the thing. We do this with people when they get divorced, break up or lose a loved one. We act like because some time has gone by or because they are no longer meeting with the lawyer or in a funeral home, life must be better. But we should consider something: When there has been a major trauma, people are still hurting even when it is not obvious on the surface. We should consciously consider and think through how someone’s experience may have affected their long-term health. They may have stopped crying on the outside, but not on the inside. They may have gone back to work and are around people, but they are incredibly lonely. They made have gotten through the first major holiday, but another is coming. I think there are some things we can do to help people in pain as they are going through the process. People serve people the most in the moments closest to the trauma, which is often helpful as the person is to numb to function. That said, I think we can help them as they continue to navigate the pain later in the process.
- When a friend loses a loved one, grab your phone and make a calendar reminder to take them out to dinner at the six-month mark of their loss.
- Send an encouragement card to the person regarding the recovery even once it looks like the person has recovered.
- Approach the conversation with the idea that they are discouraged when you think they should be encouraged. (Not so they will stay there, but so you can truly encourage them as you meet them where they are.)
- Plan a get together/event with the person during what will inevitably be a hard season for them based on the pain they experienced.
- Offer pragmatic help with a routine task (meal, lawn, cleaning, childcare, leaves, etc.) to the person months after the pain with the goal of just refreshing them.